In early February, Harley-Davidson unveiled two new “mid-year” models, the 2012 XL1200V Seventy-Two and FLS Softail Slim, at Southern California biker hotspot Cook’s Corner. The Seventy-Two is part of Harley’s popular Dark Custom line, which also includes the Iron 883, Nightster, Forty-Eight, Street Bob, Fat Bob and Blackline.
Drawing its name from Route 72— the famous Whittier Boulevard cruising strip that runs from Puente Street in Brea, California, to Atlantic Boulevard in East Los Angeles—the Sportster-based Seventy-Two has a stainless steel mini-ape handlebar mounted on a 2-inch riser, a central speedometer, 2.1-gallon “peanut” gas tank, skinny 21/16-inch wire-spoke chrome wheels shod with bias-ply Dunlop whitewalls, a chopped rear fender and chromed shorty dual exhaust pipes. The rubber-mounted, ohv 1200cc engine is equipped with a five-speed transmission and finished in gray powdercoat with chrome covers. Claimed “laden” seat height is 26.6 inches. Dry weight is 545 pounds.
At the launch, the Hard Candy Big Red Flake Seventy-Two on display was fitted with an optional solo seat topped with a Schwinn Sting-Ray-esque metalflake cover that replaced the standard one-piece Sportster saddle. A chrome one-piece sissybar is also available.
“In creating the Seventy-Two, we were also inspired by the vibe of the early choppers era,” said Frank Savage, H-D Manager of Industrial Design. “Those bikes were colorful and chromed, but also narrow and stripped down to the essentials. You look at period examples and they are almost as simple as a bicycle. It’s a custom style that’s very particular to America and that California scene.”
“The final touch to the Hard Candy Big Red Flake paint is a logo on the tank top and pinstripe scallop details on both fenders. Each was originally created by hand, and we recreated that art in a decal for production, so they have the appearance of hand-applied graphics in that they are not exactly perfect. The graphics are then covered with a final clear coat application.”
“The Seventy-Two will appeal to 18-34-year-olds because it’s a look and era that they admire,” said H-D’s Director of Consumer Influence, Paul James. “But it also appeals to our core customers, many of whom were young adults in that era. The Seventy-Two reminds them of bikes that they grew up with. It bridges generations.”
MSRP for the Seventy-Two is $10,499 in Black Denim or Big Blue Pearl. Add $700 for Hard Candy Big Red Flake.
Harley Senior Designer Casey Ketterhagen is the creative pen behind the Softail Slim’s “essential” look. “It’s time to make the engine the focal point of the motorcycle,” he said, “so we put a Softail on a diet to get the proportions back in check. Scale down the rear with a narrow tire and chopped fender, and the heart of the bike, the motor, once again becomes the focus. I’d personally like to strip the bike down even further, but this is as far as we can go on a production model.”
In fact, the widest part of the Slim is its brand-new cross-brace-equipped “Hollywood” handlebar that stretches across the 5.0-gallon gas tank and black “cat’s eye” speedometer console.
“This bar has been in our past,” said James. “No one knows where the name came from. There’s some thought that guys in that era mounted extra lights to the bar and ‘had gone Hollywood.’”
Relatively narrow 90/85-series Dunlops are mounted on black-hubbed/rimmed, wire-spoke 16-inch wheels front and back. Half-moon-shaped floorboards are topped with “retro-style” rubber pads. Like the Seventy-Two, the Slim is fitted with a side-mounted license-plate bracket.
Like all non-CVO 2012 Softails, the Slim is powered by Harley’s rigid-mounted, counterbalanced, air-cooled, 1690cc (103-cubic-inch) Twin Cam V-Twin that is said to produce 98.7 foot-pounds of torque at 3000 rpm.
“We left a gap between the nose of the seat and tank so the rider can see the top of the motor,” said Ketterhagen. “I like to look down and see what’s moving me.”
The black-powdercoated engine is treated to polished covers and a round, gloss-black air cleaner. A six-speed Cruise Drive transmission is standard. Height for the tuck-and-roll saddle is just 23.8 inches, the lowest seat on any current-model Harley.
“There are a lot of people who don’t have long inseams,” said James. “They want to feel comfortable on a bike. They want to be able to feel their feet on the ground, feel in control. At the same time, that ‘slammed’ look is hot.”
Claimed dry weight is 671 pounds. Of current Softails, only the 638-pound Blackline weighs less.
MSRP for the Slim in Vivid Black is $15,499, making it Harley’s least-expensive Softail. Black Denim or Ember Red Sunglo lists for $15,884. Options include a sprung solo seat and a gloss-black primary cover and finned derby cover.
While there’s nothing significantly mechanically different about the Seventy-Two and the Slim from their Sportster and Softail siblings—the powertrains, for example, are identical; suspension is similar—James said both bikes have a unique look, riding position and feel because of the way that the parts and pieces have been put together.
Timing is important, too. “The last two years, we’ve introduced mid-year-model bikes,” said James. “We introduced the Forty Eight about this time two years ago. And last year, we introduced the Blackline. This year, we have two new motorcycles in this time frame.
“The idea is to become more customer-led, more nimble, introduce more products, be quicker to market. We’ve listened to our dealers, and we’re pushing the timing of our dealer shows and when we’ve launched new motorcycles out further to give them that time to serve the marketplace and make sure we weren’t overlapping the middle of the riding season with new models.
“We’re producing much fewer motorcycles than we did in 2006, but we’ve become a more efficient company. Since 2009, the beginning our ‘transformation,’ we’ve changed the way we do a lot of things, everything from manufacturing to purchasing up to production. The transition to the new factory in York, Pennsylvania, is really the result—the payoff—of a lot of this work.”